ObamaCare’s last-minute holiday meltdown
You know how all the retail stores and online merchants ramp up operations to handle the last-minute surge of desperate Christmas shoppers? ObamaCare isn’t like that. The crap website Barack Obama blew $637 million of our dollars creating is still a pile of sub-standard junk that wouldn’t pass beta testing at a halfway reputable software company – and that’s before the corporate security team shut down the entire project because of its glaring security flaws, which are so hideous that Barack Obama wouldn’t touch his own website with a ten-foot pole. (Do you really think the White House P.R. team was unaware of how horrible it would look for Obama to delay his symbolic sign-up until December 23, then dispatch a swarm of minions to take care of it for him, rather than proudly accessing his masterpiece via laptop in a splashy photo-op? Do you think they’re unaware of how much badly-needed positive news they sacrificed by not staging that photo op?)
Luckily for ObamaCare defenders, the Department of Health and Human Services decided not to require itself to let Americans know when their system is hacked, so at least that little P.R. nightmare will be delayed, until a Freedom of Information Act request or Congressional subpoena forces them to spill the beans. That’s why all the stories of security flaws you’ve heard so far are coming from the state exchanges. The Most Transparent Administration in History gets to hide the truth until it’s pried from their white-knuckled grasp.
People have been wondering about the recent spate of Healthcare.gov outages. It suddenly went down for what was described by the bureaucracy as “scheduled maintenance” on Friday… right before President Obama gave his last press conference of the year. It went down again on Monday, during the heat of what was supposed to be the last day of enrollment. Hasty last-minute corrections to address security flaws? An overpriced government boondoggle collapsing under a fraction of the user load that far less expensive commercial websites handle every year? No one will say for sure.
The Administration secretly extended the deadline for enrollment by one extra day, which seems like an odd thing to do without telling anyone loudly and immediately… but it makes a bit more sense when viewed as a buffer against the lousy ObamaCare system dropping like a house of cards in a hurricane, crushed by the weight of applicants on the last official day. From the Washington Post:
Under the federal rules, Dec. 23 has long been cited as the deadline for consumers to sign up for insurance if they want to have it on Jan 1. On Monday, even as they acknowledged that the rewritten computer code gives people an extra day, federal health officials insisted that the deadline had not changed, saying they were merely trying to accommodate people who might have trouble enrolling because of heavy last-minute Web traffic.
Asked about the reason for the extra day — and why it was kept secret at first — officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency overseeing the health insurance exchange, at first declined to respond and then issued two statements with slightly differing explanations. Julie Bataille, director of CMS’s office of communications said in the second statement that the official deadline for signing up for Jan. 1 coverage remained Monday, but added: “[W]e have taken steps to make sure that those who tried to enroll today but had delays due to high traffic have a fail-safe.”
It’s cute how they still pretend they’re dealing with some incredible traffic tsunami, isn’t it? They can’t handle a fraction of the load an operation like Amazon or Kayak – you know, the companies Barack Obama incessantly compared his system to, in happier times – processes on a slow day.
As bad as things have been at the federal exchange website, it’s even worse in California, where the commissars were kinda-sorta offering “breathing room” to frustrated users without formally extending the enrollment deadline, whatever that means in practice. Basically, they’re trying to informally waive the deadline without officially conceding that it’s necessary. CBS News reports:
The need for Covered California to provide consumers some wiggle room became evident as Monday wore on, with complaints surfacing from people who were attempting to sign up for an insurance plan but were unable to do so.
Gene Nelson, an adjunct professor in the biomedical engineering department at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, had been frustrated in his attempts to apply through the website and through Covered California’s call centers.
He faced a variety of challenges on the website, including stalls, time-outs and messages warning of invalid user names and passwords that left him unable to even create an account.
When he contacted the call center for help, a recorded message told him to sign up through the website instead and then bounced him off the telephone call with a series of busy-signal beeps. He said he was not given the option to hold on the line for an available operator.
“It’s impossible,” he said.
Hilarity ensued when the media checked out Covered California for themselves:
When a reporter for The Associated Press tried the website late Monday afternoon, a click on the “Apply Now” button led to a 25-second delay and ended with a message that read, “Sorry, An Error Has Occurred In the System. Please contact System Administrator.”
Bummer. Especially since California appears to be one of the many states where the ObamaCare “death spiral” is churning:
So far, enrollment has skewed toward older people. That could cause financial problems for insurers if the pool becomes heavily weighted toward those who require more medical care and does not include enough younger and healthier people.
In response, Covered California has been ramping up its marketing efforts to the younger demographic.
And when the younger demographic knuckled under to this marketing and gave the website a try, they ran into the kind of nonsense they wouldn’t tolerate for five minutes from a low-end online game. God forbid they should click on the “Help” button:
This is a snapshot from the Covered CA help site.Count how many items are wrong & how many ways they spelled “button” pic.twitter.com/cVmKFC762P
— Gary (@OCFuturesTrader) December 23, 2013
California’s not the only place where “flexibility” is suddenly being offered to applicants with the old deadline looming, as chronicled by Politico:
New York and Massachusetts are following the federal health exchange’s lead and extending their sign-up deadlines for coverage starting Jan. 1, those programs’ directors announced Monday afternoon.
Other state exchanges, including the ones in California, Washington state and the District of Columbia, are offering general flexibility for individuals who started but couldn’t complete their applications by the 11:59 p.m. Monday deadline. Residents there will still be guaranteed coverage starting Jan. 1.
By contrast, Connecticut and Colorado announced Monday that their exchanges were holding to Dec. 23 as the enrollment cut-off.
New Yorkers now will have until 11:55 p.m. Christmas Eve to choose a plan, said officials, who described “very high enrollment activity” Monday.
Massachusetts residents have even longer, until New Year’s Eve, to enroll and pay their first premium if they are receiving a federal tax credit. Those choosing Massachusetts Health Connector plans who are not eligible for federal subsidies also benefit from the new Dec. 31 date and have through Jan. 10 to pay their initial premium.
Rhode Island is giving its residents until Dec. 31 to pick a plan, the state exchange announced last week, with the first premium payment due Jan. 6.
Once Santa comes thumping down the chimney, and it’s no longer possible to delay enrollment deadlines, we’ll get to watch the payment deadlines skitter around like grease on a hot griddle. Those deadlines have already been shoved well into January in most states, which will make the first few weeks of the New Year interesting at hospitals and clinics across the land, and introduce the battered insurance industry to the joys of processing retroactive insurance coverage.
But remember, health insurance was too important to be left in the sloppy hands of private industry. The superior managerial competence of Big Government had to be imposed at all costs!